JULY 1945. Manila had been liberated four months earlier, and American liberation forces and Filipino guerillas were mopping up remnants of Japanese resistance in Luzon and the other islands.
At the New Bilibid Prisons Reservation, employee parents of children graduating from the elementary grades faced the dilemma of where to send their children to high school. The nearest high schools were in Biñan in the south and Manila in the north. And many of these parents, being average wage earners, could not afford the luxury of sending their children to these schools, much less putting them up to board and lodge in Manila. But even parents who could were hesitant to send their children off to study in a war-ravaged city.
Acting swiftly to address the problem, then Director of Prisons, Eriberto S. Misa, and other prisons officials, among them then Prisons Superintendent Atty. Alfredo M. Bunye, petitioned on July 17, 1945 the Office of the Secretary of Instruction and Information for permission to open a public high school within the prisons reservation – on the guarantee that prisons administration would provide the building, desks, tables and other facilities needed by the proposed school. Another letter sent a week later proposed that a monthly tuition fee of 10 pesos be charged every student.
As soon as approval came from the Office of the Secretary of Instruction and Information, then Division Superintendent Vicente Garcia received instructions to organize the school with two teachers to start with. Mr. Cesar S. Tiangco, Mrs. Lourdes Tibayan and Mrs. Catalina Roque were the first members of the school faculty. They were later joined by Mrs. Teodora Sacco, Mr. Melchor Tugab, Mrs. Pilar Franco and Miss Clarito. The school board was composed of Mr. Generoso Castañeda, as Chairman, and Atty. Alfredo M. Bunye and Mr. Rufino Recaido, both prisons officials, as members.
The shop of the Prisons Construction Building on Type B served as the first ‘school building.’ It had two rooms that served as classrooms, another as laboratory room, and a third, as home economics room. A small concrete building – windowless and with just one door, called “karsel” because it looked like a solitary confinement cell – served as the fourth year room. Across the road, a small patch of land served as the school’s horticulture garden while the entire ‘Central Park’ was the school’s playground.
The school’s first graduation took place in 1949 with the sisters Eufronia and Pacita Recaido leading the 41 class members, as valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively. Prisons Director Eustaquio Balagtas gave the commencement speech.
The construction-shop-turned-into-school-building structure on Type B existed for another five years before it was felt necessary to find a new site to accommodate the growing number of enrollees. About this time, children of non-reservation residents from the barrios as far as Sucat, Cupang and Alabang had begun to be admitted to the high school.
On recommendation of then Prisons Superintendent Atty. Alfredo M. Bunye, a 10.5-hectare site within the prisons reservation was surveyed in 1951. Shortly after, an agreement was forged between the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Justice reserving the site for the Muntinlupa High School.
With the site secured, Prisons Director Eustaquio Balagtas made representations in 1953 with then Senate President Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez for national aid for the construction of a new school building. Accordingly, 40,000 pesos were allocated from the congressional funds of then Rizal Congressman Eulogio Rodriguez, Jr. for the project.
Construction of the new Gabaldon-type school building began on August 15, 1954 during the term of Prisons Director Atty. Alfredo M. Bunye with free labor provided by the prisons’ crew of carpenter inmates. Completed within less than a year, the building was inaugurated on August 6, 1955 with Rizal Governor Isidro Rodriguez and Director of Public Schools Benigno Aldana as guests of honor.
The new school building opened its doors in School Year 1955-1956, marking the official transfer of the school from its Type B location to the new 10.5-hectare site.
Among the last graduates (Class 1954) in the old building on Type B was MNHS Pilipino teacher, Mrs. Lourdes San Jose. And the following year, Class 1955 became the first graduates from the new site, teacher Mrs. Teodora Deang among them.
The erstwhile Muntinlupa High School gained its present status as Muntinlupa NationalHigh School on January 1, 1978 upon approval by then Ministry of Education and Culture Secretary Juan Manuel and Deputy Budget Commissioner Teodulo Agcaoili.
In 1980 fire razed the high school’s Main Building, and while it was quickly replaced with an Imelda-type structure, the burgeoning school population brought about the problem of perennial lack of classrooms. With support from the City Government, however, several two-storey classroom buildings, including a gym, science and DOST buildings, were constructed in the late ‘80s. A library building was also planned.
From its humble beginnings, the Muntinlupa National High School has gained a prominent stature in the education sector, having graduated students who occupied and are occupying key positions in both the government and private sector. It has also gone a long way from its first graduating class of 41 members to 1,477 graduates on its 60th Commencement Exercises March 26, 2008.
For all that it has become today, the Muntinlupa National High School owes a great debt of gratitude to Prisons Directors Eriberto S. Misa and Atty. Alfredo M. Bunye, whose shared vision and commitment to public welfare and education have changed the lives of thousands who would not otherwise have had access to good affordable education. To the line of dedicated and committed principals — Mr. Cesar S. Tiangco (1945-1976), Mrs. Marcela B. Ponce (1978-1991), Mr. Felix A. Balbaguio (1991-1995), Dr. Isabelita L. Montesa (1995-2006), Dr. Estrella C. Aseron (2006-2014), and Dr. Florante C. Marmeto (2014 – present) – who ably steered the ship of learning with their exemplary leadership, courage and determination. And to the great and heroic teachers who shed ‘blood, sweat and tears’ to fulfill an honorable commitment to bring the light of knowledge and enlightenment where darkness once was.
And now, construction work has begun on an Alumni House – called Bulwagan ng Alumni – which, through the initiative of the Muntinlupa National High School Alumni Foundation (MUNHSAF) and with support from alumni across the years, here and across the seas, would hopefully bring together alumni, teachers and students of the MNHS under one roof — and get the memories flowing once again …